U.K. policymakers conduct the three-way test when it comes to aid spending, an expert deems. Lawrence Haddad, director of the Institute of Development Studies, said these questions essentially include:
- Can aid deliver the output or outcome?- Can these outputs or outcomes make a long term difference?- Can impact be demonstrated in a relatively short time period?
But potential contradictions arise from this line of reasoning, Haddad said.
“It is difficult to show the short-term impact of things that can make a long term difference (e.g. investments in innovation in science and technology). Things that aid can deliver (e.g. more children in school) may not make a long term difference (e.g. if class sizes are so large that the average student’s ability to learn diminishes). Things that aid can deliver (e.g. stronger health systems) can present problems for the demonstration of impact (e.g. in terms of lives saved),” Hadad wrote in a blog.
There are five dimensions of this debate that are “woefully under-represented,” he noted.
First, consultations must be conducted with a “wide range” of stakeholders about the questions worth asking. Next, determine why a development initiative is making an impact, as this “requires innovative issue-driven blends of [quantitative] and [qualitative]” data.
“The ‘randomistas’ and even the quasi-experimentalists often answer the question ‘does it have an impact?’, sometimes ‘for who?’, but rarely ‘why?’,” Haddad said.
Third, expand the set of things that may be evaluated. Fourth, add “experiential, cultural and value differences” in defining the idea of successful development interventions. Last, build in more variation and diversity in methodologically rigorous analyses used in appraising development initiatives.
“In short the development research community must nuance the impact debate, not disown it,” Haddad argued.
He concluded: “If we do the latter, then aid will only be used for things where it is easiest to demonstrate impact and the rest will be wrung out of [the Department for International Development], despite the ringed fence. We need to expand the radius of evaluability if we are to help protect the parts of the aid spend that may do the most good.”